Billy Johnson puts Lethal Performance’s RS in Drift Mode on the dealer lot
By Steve Turner
Regular readers know the last time Lethal Performance picked up a new project vehicle at Weikert Ford in Lake Wales, Florida, that the company did so in smoking style. So, when Team Lethal got word that its 2016 Focus RS was on the way, the company hatched a plan to give the car’s infamous Drift Mode a test right there on the dealer lot.
“We have been buying cars from these guys since 2008. That’s where it started with these guys and ever since then we continue to purchase our cars from them,” Jared explained. “As always, we like to do something special when we take delivery of our cars. Typically we like to beat the crap out of them. Our last car, you probably saw, we had our GT350 here and we started doing some burnouts in the front of the lot here.”
That last time resulted in a nice test of the car’s Line Lock feature right in front of the dealership. Lethal Performance’s Jonas Cooper did a massive burnout in the car before even driving it off the lot to head down its path to supercharged stardom as the first 10-second GT350.
“We take the keys to a brand-new car and we do what you are supposed to do with it. Forget the break-in. Don’t worry about the first oil change. We like to beat the crap out of it right off the lot,” Jared added.
In this case the only fitting way to beat on a the new Focus RS was to test out the car’s famed Drift Mode. To do so, Lethal enlisted the talents of Ford Performance/Multimatic Motorsports driver Billy Johnson. As you may know, Billy was not only one of Ford’s 24 Hours of Le Mans drivers, but he and teammate Scott Maxwell are currently tearing up the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport class in the Shelby GT350R-C. He also has a bit of experience in the RS.
“Yeah, quite a bit. I was involved a tiny bit. I don’t want to take much credit at all because the guys at Ford Performance did an awesome job developing this car,” Billy said. “I had the opportunity to drive some pre-production stuff to help out a little bit with the calibration on the Track setting. Then, when we were racing in England for 6 Hours of Silverstone in the Ford GT, I had one of these for about a week as a ‘rental car.’
As you might imagine, Billy is a fan of EcoBoost-powered machines. Not only did he grow up modifying turbocharged imports with small engines, but he also piloted the Ford GT racer and helped develop the street version so he knows the benefits of turbocharged, direct-injected engines.
“I’m driving the Mustang GT right now, a 2016 GT, but I have to say I really like the EcoBoost. Just from a turbo standpoint, I love turbocharged cars,” Billy said. “The engine is way lighter that the V-8 so from a balance and overall weight standpoint (I like it). Plus, it’s easy to get a lot of power out of them. It’s a lot of fun. I really like the EcoBoost.”
He definitely enjoyed engaging Drift Mode in the EcoBoost-powered Focus RS on the lot at Weikert Ford…
If you are like us an haven’t tried Drift Mode yet, here’s a quick tutorial from Billy Johnson:
• Press the Drive mode button and select Drift mode.
• Press and hold the traction control button for roughly 5 seconds. There will be a display with a progress bar that will then notify you when stability control is turned off. (Keep in mind, even if you turn stability control off in a different mode, you may need to repeat this step since changing drive mode often enables stability control.)
• Use 1st gear only and enter the circle where you will (safely) be drifting. Add steering lock and stop the throttle. The drift mode is pretty neat in that it has a ~6,000 soft limiter that prevents you from bouncing off the hard rev limiter and causing excessive wear or damage to the engine.
• Adjust your throttle and steering as necessary to maintain the drift.
Obviously Drift Mode works well enough to destroy a set of Pilot Sport Cup 2s in a morning, but it’s not actually all-out drifting, which requires a skilled driver. Instead the system allows novice drivers to kick the tail out and reel the car back in quickly. It allows drifting for the rest of us. This mode allows you to put in a lot of steering angle in first gear and hang the rear tires out. If you countersteer as the car slides, the drifting fun gets reined in to keep novices out of trouble. That 6,000-rpm rev limiter in Drift mode also keeps rookies from banging the on the rev limiter during a drift.
“Since neutral steering (steering wheel straight) or any counter-steer will quickly end the slide, prolonged drifts in the Focus RS require steering lock into the corner at all times. By contrast, most traditional rear-wheel-drive cars drift with opposite lock to steer the car in the slide,” Billy explained. "This is probably part of the engine and transmission programming to maintain a sideways yaw angle to keep the car in a ‘drift.’ Due to the torque vectoring and the ability to send 100 percent of the rear wheels torque to the outside wheel, it might be a good idea to balance the drifting in both directions, as prolonged sliding in one direction will wear out the outside rear tire much quicker than the inside. Have fun and be safe.”
That’s definitely a cool offering on a stock vehicle, but now that Lethal Performance owns this car (and a fresh new set of tires) we expect this hot hatch to get a lot hotter in the near future.
“We’ve got a lot planned for this thing. We will probably start out with the basic intake and custom tune from Lund Racing… We are going to do exhaust on this car, some suspension stuff and, eventually, we are going to do a turbo upgrade and see what this thing can handle,” Jared hinted. “We already know that our EcoBoost Mustang has made some pretty incredible power with a 7163 EFR turbo, so we are going to take this sucker back to will over at Rarefab and have him fab-up an upgrade turbo for this sucker.”
As you might have guessed, you will be able to follow along with the mods and results from the Lethal Focus RS right here, so stay tuned.
This is how to properly take delivery of your new Focus RS project car—with Ford Performance/Multimatic Motorsports driver Billy Johnson ensuring that Drift Mode works properly.
If you aren’t fully up to speed on Ford’s hottest hatch, the new Focus RS is propelled by a tuned-up version of the same 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that powers the Mustang. The RS features an improved head, camshaft and turbo. All together the hotter 2.3 produces 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Look for those numbers to swell when Lethal gets going with this one.
With only 14 miles on the clock, driver Billy showed us that the Focus RS definitely has the power and prowess to do some serious drifting—even in stock form. “What’s really cool, and I like, is that there’s a false rev limiter. So it won’t be bouncing off the rev limiter…” he said. “It holds it right at 6,000 rpm. That’s a pretty ingenious feature.”
The RS shares interior DNA with is Focus brethren, but the blue thread accents and supportive RS Recaros let you know this one is special.
Jared Rosen of Lethal Performance hosted the company’s first Facebook Live streaming event by showing Billy drifting the Focus RS. He even rode shotgun while Billy did his thing. Here Jared interviews Billy after the smoke cleared. “I saw this car first when we did the GT350 track day down at Sebring that Ford invited us to, which was an awesome experience,” Jared said. “They had pretty much this exact same car on display then and I love it.”
Tech tip for RS owners in warmer climates: Ford installs this adhesive-backed pad to obstruct airflow over the intercooler because it runs too cool in colder climates. We don’t have that issue in Florida, so Billy removed it to keep the temps in check while he put down the power.
Pro Tip: If you plan to smoke your Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s in Drift Mode we hope you have a properly funded tire budget. After a morning of abuse the passenger rear tire was completely finished.
Phillip Weikert, Jared Rosen and Billy Johnson celebrate a most epic Focus RS delivery for Lethal Performance. With a start like this, we can’t wait to see what’s next.